Climate change is a serious issue and if we don't address it there will be serious consequences. The science is clear, but the plans on how to address climate change are not.
Electricity generation solutions for the transition
Comparing the price of solar/wind to coal is usually misleading because a coal plant can operating 24/7 but for renewables: the sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't always blow. Fossil fuel plants can also operate almost anywhere on land, where a solar panel in Canada will be cost competitive.
A fairer comparison is solar + batteries or wind + batteries vs coal or natural gas plants. In that regard we are getting very close to cost parity, but we aren't there yet.
In the meantime we need carbon-free electricity generation that is consistent and can be turned scaled up and down. Nuclear is our best answer.
Nuclear power is cost-competitive with fossil-fuels, even with all the unnecessary red tape and outdated technology.
Perceptions of safety seems to be what stands in the way of our nuclear future, so let's clear some of that up:
- Nuclear power is the safer than coal and natural gas by an order of magnitude. (source)
- The waste products of nuclear energy are far easier to contain than fossil-fuels (nuclear vs coal) , especially if you take into account the cost of cleaning up the primary waste of burning fossil-fuels: CO2.
If you want to have a smooth transition from the current world to a renewable energy future, you'll need the stability and carbon-free generation from nuclear energy.
Dealing with the world of transportation we live in
Ideally, we all want good public transit, trains, etc. But we live in a world that is less than 100% urban, and we live in a world where many parts are designed for personal transportation (cars, motorbikes, etc).
Adding electric vehicle charging stations and replacing every gas-powered car, bus, and motorbike with an electric one will be far easier than the necessary installation of projects of like subways systems, high-speed rail, etc. It's already happening on it's own because of cost alone .
Now that electric cars are cost competitive to buy, and they're cheaper to operate, (source) it's becoming a no-brainer for most people to buy an electric car next time they're in the market for a car. No coercion needed.
People that are anti-electric-car are generally of two kinds: 1) allowing perfect (transit, biking, etc) preventing us from doing good (zero tailpipe emission personal transport). 2) They hate Elon Musk and therefore Tesla.
With what's at stake we have to take the world as it is, and lean into what is working. And Tesla's battery and drive-train technology is the fastest path to cost-competitive electrified travel in every domain. (a good breakdown of their battery tech, a breakdown of efficiency of EVs)
The rivers are running dry
Without changing the world's diet or genocide, water consumption cannot be reduced enough to be sustainable. Our rivers are running dry and we are depleting our aquifers at an alarming rate. (source)
Some will fight the diet fight, but it will be far easier to just produce fresh water.
Desalination is the only technology we have that can produce water on the scale we need. They're a series of industrial buildings that can be put away from picturesque beachfront property. The cost is competitive to water from natural sources, especially in dry places (source). Desalination will be more cost-competitive as those sources dry up and more solar power comes online (the majority of the desalination cost is electricity).
The main push-back on desalination is that the waste product of a desal plant is saltier-than-normal, and warmer-than-normal water. Which kills wildlife. These are solvable problems having outflow systems that spread the "waste" water across a broader area to reduce the effect (source).
Even if this wasn't solvable, it's not like draining rivers and aquifers isn't having a detrimental affect on wildlife.
If you're serious about sustainability, desalination is the only viable option we have at the moment.
Why the resistance?
If climate change is as existential as people make it out to be, the consistent resistance from environmental groups to these common sense projects is head-scratching.
I think it has to do with the origin of our legacy environmental groups (the Sierra Club, GreenPeace, NRDC). They took up the standard when climate change wasn't understood. They started from the premise of preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the earth.
Combatting climate change is primarily an industrial revolution, we're upending how we produce and consume energy on the largest scales possible. All industrial processes have negative affects on the natural beauty of Earth. Which is why most legacy environmental groups' plans includes humanity regressing into a lifestyle of poverty and deprivation, albeit in a more beautiful world. (what is degrowth)
A new class of environmentalist
We need a new class of sustainability warriors that is more pragmatic, data-driven, and pro-humanity. The Earth can be beautiful, biodiverse, and sustainable with 10 billion humans or more if we are smart about how we produce and consume resources.
Let's advocate for common sense solutions that will help humanity thrive, it may even lead to a world without scarcity (universal price collapse).